ROW80: The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life

Posted by Kathy Waller

It is a truth universally acknowledged that to accomplish anything of worth, one must first set goals.

English: 85. Functions and Use Scenarios Mappi...

English: 85. Functions and Use Scenarios Mapping to Requirements and Goals (Photo credit: Wikipedia). By Richard J. Mayer and others [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But goals drive me crazy, and that’s no secret either. Periodically, fellow Austin Mystery Writer Gale Albright pulls out her notebook and says, “All right. Let’s write down our goals.” Her goals, my goals, goals for us as a team. She’s serious about goals.

As soon as she says the magic word, I start a major case of the fantods. I can come up with goals, but when I see them on paper, claustrophobia sets in. I dig in my heels and think, “I will not do [whatever I’ve written that I will do]. And you can’t make me.” Sometimes I don’t just think it–I say it.

I’ve said it to Gale so often that now when she pulls out her notebook, she begins with, “I know you don’t like goals, but…”

I don’t think she knows I have a long history of goal-setting–I love trying to organize myself. And there are so many goals out there just itching to be adopted.

Writing challenges lurk all over the Internet: Write every day, write a thousand words every day, keep a journal, do morning pages, do evening pages, write for an hour-two hours-three hours every day, produce a 50,000-word novel in November by writing 1,667 words a day…

That last, which you no doubt recognize as the goal of NaNoWriMo, really drives me up the wall. Every year, I register. Then, every October 31, the fantods set in, and there goes my chance of winning. I’ve given up all hope of getting a NaNo tee-shirt.

row80logocopySeveral years ago, however, I discovered a writing challenge I can live with: A Round of Words in 80 Days: The writing challenge that knows you have a life.

It goes like this: Each year, there are four 80-day rounds. On the first day of each round, participants decide on goals and post them on their blogs. Then they put links to their posts on a ROW80 Linky for a ROW80 blog hop.

For the rest of the round, participants report their progress on Sundays and Wednesdays, and publish their links on the day’s Linky.

If they’ve met their goals, that’s great. If they haven’t, that’s life. Participants are free to change goals and post new ones.

Anyone who wants to join is welcome, and it’s okay to jump in at any time during the round–just post goals on the next Sunday/Wednesday check-in day and go on from there.

I’ve done ROW80 several times without even a hint of the fantods. The secret, I think, is in the subtitle: The writing challenge that knows you have a life.

I have a life. And sometimes it gets in the way. Cedar fever, company coming, hauling cats to the vet–so many things can bump writing down to second or third or tenth priority. When I  set out to write every single day, or one hour every single day–or adopt any goal set by someone else–and then don’t meet that goal, I’ve failed. And I’m likely to stop altogether.

But ROW80 not only allows me to set my own goals, it also acknowledges I might need to set them aside. It allows me to tweak them, change them, and if I need to, scuttle them and start over. There’s no pressure to conform or to make excuses for lapses. I’m in charge.

Now, here’s the evidence that I’m a little crazy: No matter what goals I set or what challenges I face, I’m always in charge. No one stands over me holding a machete to make sure I write one hour a day. No one pins a Scarlet F-for-failure on my tee-shirt when I don’t write in my journal.

Nobody. Not even Gale.

But there’s a flexibility to ROW80 that somehow makes goals easier to live with. I’m free, free, free… In addition, I’m not in this alone. At present, fourteen bloggers have registered on today’s Linky. Tomorrow there will be more. Reading their posts is instructive as well. Participants don’t make excuses; they evaluate, consider what didn’t work and what might work, and go from there.

Yesterday I drafted some goals, posted them on my blog, and registered on the Linky. On Wednesday, I’ll report on my progress, or possibly on my not-progress. But when I’m part of ROW80, I usually make some progress, even when life gets in the way.

Rules for A Round of Words in 80 Days, appear here. Information about how ROW80 started appears here. Find the ROW80 blog here.

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fantod: Usually, fantods. a state of extreme nervousness or restlessness; the willies; the fidgets (usually preceded by the)

I came across the word fantods in a story by O. Henry and liked it so much I decided to have the fantods as often as possible.

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Kathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly
and at the group blog Writing Wranglers and Warriors
as well as here at Austin Mystery Writers.
Her short stories appear at Mysterical-E
and in Murder on Wheels

 

 

Pieces of Time

“After you learn – and if you’re good and Gawd helps ya and you’re lucky to have a personality that comes across – then what you’re doing is, you’re giving people… little, tiny pieces of time… that they never forget.”- James Stewart, explaining to Peter Bogdanovich what actors do

Three paragraphs into a post about the importance of motivation in character and plot development–working title: “What Do You Want?”–I remembered hearing that As Good As It Gets would be on television. I’d like to see it again, so I checked the schedule for the network that airs oldies.

As Good As It Gets wasn’t running, nor was anything else I wanted to see, but while I was there, I went on to see what’s playing today, and tomorrow, and the next day, until nearly two weeks were planned out. Because it’s so easy to forget these things, I prepared a schedule:

Cropped screenshot of Claudette Colbert and Cl...

Cropped screenshot of Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable from the trailer for the film It Happened One Night. (Photo credit: Wikipedia). By Trailer screenshot, from DVD It Happened One Night, Columbia, 1999 (It Happened One Night trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, December 15
5:45a It Happened One Night
8:00p The Desperate Hours (I love Frederic March and Humphrey Bogart)
10:30p Compulsion (based on the Leopold and Loeb case; Orson Welles as the DA)

Wednesday, December 16
3:40p Come Back, Little Sheba (always wanted to see it, never have)
5:45p Let No Man Write My Epitaph (Burl Ives, always wonderful, and Jean Seberg, ditto)

Thursday, December 17
6:20a Blueprint for Murder (don’t get to see Joseph Cotton much any more)
5:25p Stalag 17 (William Holden and Gary Merrill; what’s not to like?)
8:00p Twelve O’Clock High (Gregory Peck and Gary Merrill; see above)

Friday, December 18
8:00a The Bells of St. Mary’s (Ingrid Bergman; her smile in that last scene makes me reach for a second crying towel; worth getting up early for)

Saturday, December 19
5:15p The Rainmaker (Katharine Hepburn; no comment needed)
8:00p Roman Holiday (Audrey Hepburn; two Hepburns in rapid succession–modified rapture!)
10:40p Father Goose (Cary Grant; well, d’oh)

Sunday, December 20
11:00a The Cheap Detective (Neil Simon’s script, Sid Caesar, Dom DeLuise, John Houseman, Madeline Kahn, Fernando Llamas, Phil Silvers, and on and on…)
8:00p Cheaper by the Dozen (seen it several times, but I love Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy)

And during the rest of the week, there will be opportunities to see Tootsie, Bye Bye Birdie, The Keys of the Kingdom, Oliver Twist (1933 version, with Dickie Moore), Let’s Make it Legal (Claudette Colbert and Marilyn Monroe), That Touch of Mink, and Barefoot in the Park.

And the Shirley Temple Christmas Day marathon, or at least Captain January, might be fun…

I’d be happy to watch nearly everything that network has to offer, one after the other.

(Except The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. After seeing that one a half-dozen times, I know who shot him and don’t need a review.)

But now, a reality check. The movies are uncut, and they’re interrupted by numerous commercials, so each runs about three hours. Watching the ones named above, minus Captain January because it’s a maybe–would take sixty-three hours. If I watched for sixteen hours straight–nothing else, just sat there and watched–the film binge would take four days. Watching eight hours a day would use up eight days. I hate to admit it, but lying on the couch all day, eating Hershey’s Kisses, watching old films… I could do that. But I won’t.

Because how much time have I spent over my lifetime lost in the fantasy on a small screen? How many hours have I sat and watched instead of taking up pen and paper–or laptop–and writing?

Too many.

James Stewart didn’t make all those marvelous little pieces of time by lying on his couch, watching Charlie Chaplin on TV.

Stories are pieces of time, too, and I want to make more of them. But it’s not going to happen while I’m mesmerized by Hollywood. I have to turn off that television and write.

***

 

Kathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly12376007_1178023688877814_9154670791884953413_n (3)
and at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.
Two of her stories appear in the anthology
MURDER ON WHEELS (Wildside, 2015).
She’s now working on short stories
and on a mystery novel set in a town
very like the one she grew up in.

 

Tailoring, Treaties, and Tomatoes: 3 Techniques to Turn You into a Tenacious Writer

Italiano: Pomodoro grinzoso

Italiano: Pomodoro grinzoso (Photo credit: Wikipedia). By Abbasnullius (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In a post that appeared here last fall, Austin Mystery Writer Laura Oles asked the burning question,

Can a technique named after a tomato serve as the answer to your time management woes?

Or, more specifically, what does the writer do when it’s impossible to devote a large block of time–several consecutive hours, at least–to writing?

Laura answered the question with a resounding Yes! and went on to describe her success using the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working in 25-minute blocks of time.

After reading her post, I put a Pomodoro on my toolbar. I like it. It helps me log my time, a necessary evil for professional writers, and gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

But my schedule isn’t demanding. I often feel I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to just get through the day, but really–I have time to write.  Pomodoro works while I’m writing.

But procrastination–in my case known as staring into space and thinking about what I’m going to do . . . later–wastes time. I need a jump start in order to start writing.

Even the promise an old-fashioned homegrown tomato is not enough of a carrot to lure me to the page. (Sorry about that.) To move me, there must also be a stick. Fortunately, sticks are available.

One I’ve found helpful is a writing challenge: A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80), subtitled The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.

In ROW80, you set your own goals. They must be specific and measurable, but they’re tailored to your needs. The first day of the challenge, you announce your goals in a blog post; then you put a link to your post on the ROW80 Linky.

I won’t try to explain the Linky, but you can read about it in the FAQs.

There are four rounds each year, starting the first Mondays in January, April, July, and October. Each runs eighty days and is followed by several days off. You check in every Sunday and Wednesday with a blog post in which you report your progress. If you need to change your goals, that’s fine. Just state the new ones and go on from there.

Round 1 for 2015 began January 5. Too late to enter? No. Jump in tomorrow or Sunday, or next week . . .

Your obligations, in addition to writing the Sunday and Wednesday posts and listing them on the Linky are 1) to put a link to the Linky page on your post; and 2) to visit the blogs of other ROW80 participants, comment, encourage them.

ROW80 allows flexibility. You choose when and how much you write, and if you don’t meet your goals, you haven’t failed–you’ve learned something. No pain, plenty of gain. The challenge is a stick, but there’s a lot of carrot in it, too.

A slightly stickier stick appears on Ramona DeFelice Long’s blog, which is an excellent resource for writers. Ramona is a professional editor as well as a writer. She’s successful because she works at her craft. In this post, she describes the persistence and determination required of the serious writer:

Writers write. Writers who get published complete work and submit that work to agents and editors. It’s how it works. The way to write for publication is to commit to it. That means nothing–and no one–stands in the way of your writing goals.

Ramona invites readers to take “The Sacred Writing Time Pledge.” As in ROW80, you tailor the pledge to your own needs–within certain parameters. But after that, there’s no wiggle room. A Sacred Pledge is meant to be kept. It’s simple: You do what you said you would do, or you don’t do it.

The pledge is a kind of treaty, too–a formal agreement between the writer and other parties. In most cases, it takes a village to make a writer. You sign the pledge, but there are spaces for your villagers to sign as well.

What I like best about Ramona’s pledge is its focus on the goal most writers aspire to–publication–and its honesty about what it takes to get there.

Now for a summary: In this post, I presented for your edification three techniques:

 ROW80, which lets you tailor goals to your needs;

The Sacred Writing Pledge, which a comprises both a pledge and a treaty; and

Pomodoro, which is a tomato.

Singly, or in combination, these three can help turn you into a tenacious writer.

But Wait!

I just read over the paragraph in which I referred to Ramona’s pledge as a stickier stick, and I realize the stick part is a gross exaggeration.

The Sacred Writing Time Pledge contains much more carrot than stick. In the first place, publication is as good a carrot as any writer can aspire to. It’s the literary equivalent of carrot cake.

Also, Ramona reminds us that we take the Sacred Writing Time Pledge not to enter 2015 burdened with an overwhelming task, but with hands open, ready to receive a gift:

 Think of it as renewing a vow–or falling in love for the first time, or again—with what you want to write.

Falling in love. What could be better?

Falling in love is carrot cake with a dollop of ice cream on the side.

 *****

And now, for tenacious readers, a pilon:

Tenacious

Cowhide makes the best of leather.
It should. It keeps a cow together.

 ~ Ogden Nash (of course)

 *****

0kathy-blog

  Posted by Kathy Waller,
who also blogs at
To Write Is to Write Is to Write